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Northampton girls hoop pulls away from East Longmeadow

  • Northampton girls basketball coach Perry Messer conducts practice in November.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Northampton girls basketball coach Perry Messer instructs his team during practice Nov. 28.

NORTHAMPTON — After watching one big lead evaporate, the Northampton girls basketball team immediately created another one at home Tuesday night.

The Blue Devils made the second big advance stand and earned a 51-35 win over East Longmeadow.

“I’m very proud of my team,” junior Maya Kerstetter said. “They never give up. We never stop working. It’s a really good sign for down the road that we’re never going to stop working.”

Northampton (3-1, 1-1 Valley Wheel) led 20-9 after the first quarter, but the Spartans (2-1, 0-1) slowly pulled back into the game and evened the score at 26-26 with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left in the third.

That’s when the Blue Devils responded with a 12-2 run to end the quarter and pushed the lead to 47-30 midway through the fourth en route to the victory.

“With us, it correlates to effort,” coach Perry Messer said. “We came out and played with intensity. We got the ball in spots where we needed to and played efficiently. We were doing the things we wanted to.

“Our offense has been very sporadic. That’s why we got beat by Holyoke (52-41 on Dec. 11). When the offense went (against East Longmeadow), then the defensive intensity went with it and I’m getting on them about it in the locker room” at halftime.

The Spartans trailed 25-19 at halftime and 26-21 early in the third before Bri Reardon knocked down a 3-pointer from the right baseline and Nalani Walker followed with a deep 2 from the top of the key to even the score at 26-26.

“I thought we worked hard from that point where we were tied up until the end of the game,” Messer said. “We buckled down on defense. We were rebounding, outletting, running the floor and attacking the basket with purpose. When we do that, we’re pretty good.”

Anna Walther ended her team’s 8-minute, 59-second drought without a field goal when she drove the right side and converted a layup.

Walther then buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key and — after an East Longmeadow basket — Nadine Harris knocked down a 3 of her own from up top for a 34-28 lead with 1:57 left in the third.

“We just have to motivate each other to keep working,” sophomore guard Charlotte Maurer said of working out of the funks. “Some people might get down if we aren’t playing well, so if we just keep each other up and working hard, it helps us get back on track.”

Northampton forced three turnovers and scored two more field goals — one each from Anna Moore and Walther — for a 38-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The game was never in doubt again.

“So far this season, we’ve definitely been streaky with our offense, but we’re working on not letting those down times happen,” Kerstetter said. “We try to create more turnovers defensively and hope that will turn into fast-break chances and easy baskets.”

Northampton was thrown a wrinkle at the start when East Longmeadow standout junior forward Morgan Belanger wasn’t in attendance for the game or listed on the team’s official roster.

“We tried to not let it change our mentality and what we were going to do defensively,” Kerstetter said. “It was definitely surprising that we didn’t see her there, but we didn’t want to let it effect our game.”

Walther led all scorers with 13 points and four steals, and Kerstetter added 10 points, six rebounds and five steals.

Moore battled foul trouble all night, but managed nine points and 10 rebounds, while Maurer finished with eight points, five steals and three assists.

Walker led East Longmeadow with nine points.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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